Insurgents now control Iraqi city

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

The city of Baqubah, just northeast of Baghdad, seems to have collapsed under insurgent control. Government offices and schools are closed. Assassinations take life and power from mayors, tribal chiefs and policemen. Residents fear to leave their homes.

The majority Sunni-Muslim city was once full of promise for Americans. Six months ago, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, was killed near here. In October, U.S. forces in the area began to pull back, handing security largely over to Iraqi forces.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the former leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq was killed near Baqubah in 2006.

Now, The Los Angeles Times reports the capital city of the Diyala province has become one of Iraq's most-troubled areas.

The Iraqi security forces in the area are abusive and neglectful, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials. And insurgents have been seen on video pulling Shiite families from their homes, killing them, U.S. officials said.

A farmer in the area, Saad Adnan, told a reporter with the Institute for War and Peace Reporting last month: “Baqubah is a symbol of resistance and Americans will be kicked out by the honorable mujahedin...We are with the mujahedin. They are heroes and history will remember Baqubah’s fight against the occupation.”

A masked, armed militant told the same reporter: “Thank God, we are forging ahead with our goals. We fight the occupation and kill every Iraqi policeman or soldier that protects the Americans. If it was not for them, the Americans would have been terminated and kicked out.”

U.S. military commanders have decided to step up their counterinsurgency efforts in the city. They will add more troops and work toward reconstruction. Late last month, combined American and Iraqi forces raided what the U.S. Army called "a suspected terrorist training camp." The Army said it captured 13 suspected insurgents during the raid.

Already, the U.S. has spent more than $220 million in the Diyala province. But the road ahead appears long; Iraqi contractors are refusing to enter the area and much-needed food and petroleum shipments have dropped off considerably.